Houseboat Holidays

Tour the Thousand Islands in style

September 2018 Feature Heather Magda Serrano

There are some places you’re just drawn to over and over again. Such is the case with William Lower who discovered his favorite houseboat rental destination back in 1996 and has been going back almost every summer since.

Houseboat Holidays, the houseboat rental company in Gananoque, Ontario, is situated in the perfect location on the St. Lawrence River with the Thousand Islands right in its backyard. Lower was completely sold from his very first vacation renting a houseboat there and touring the Thousand Islands.

“It’s a great experience and it really opens up the Thousand Islands,” shared Lower. “I mean, you could take cruises and it’s all very pretty, but here with Houseboat Holidays you get to go where you want to go when you want to go.”

Houseboat Holidays has been in business for more than 40 years and currently has 22 houseboats available for guests. Over the years, the owner Peter Latchmore has noticed the growing popularity of houseboats and this summer all 22 boats were booked months in advance, all the way through to September.

“Our houseboats are more popular right now than they’ve ever been,” remarked Latchmore.

With business booming, it doesn’t look like Houseboat Holidays will be slowing down any time soon. Once people come and experience everything they have to offer, they keep coming back, and Lower is a prime example of such a guest.

A Loyal Customer

Lower has enjoyed Houseboat Holidays for decades. In fact, he loves it so much that there were a couple of summers where he went six times over the course of the season.

“I’ve done it every which way,” laughed Lower. “I’ve done it with friends, significant others and by myself. Also I think I win the prize for being the latest to be out there—the latest I’ve ever taken a boat back was in November.”

As a seasoned guest at the rental company, Lower has become highly familiar with the ins-and-outs of houseboating on the Thousand Islands. He knows all the best locations and the best times to go. Plus, he’s become pretty handy at tying up his boat.

“I’ve learned the fine art of being able to tie up to a dock or a mooring buoy with nobody else on the boat, which is a feat in itself,” explained Lower.

Needless to say, Lower has been enchanted by the whole experience of staying on a houseboat and he loves everything the Thousand Islands have to offer. It’s a stunning location with different scenery around every bend.

More than that, Lower feels staying on a houseboat transforms regular experiences into something remarkable. Even when he’s doing something as normal as cooking, it’s still special because he’s on his boat looking out the window at the river.

Seasons & Scenery

Obviously the summer is an amazing time to pay a visit to Houseboat Holidays—everybody loves July and August—but Lower stressed that autumn is also a spectacular time to visit because you have less traffic and usually the water is warmer in September than it is in mid-July because it’s had the summer to warm up and it generally stays warm through September. Lower said it’s his favorite time to go.

Something else that Lower enjoys is the adventure of guiding his houseboat through the different channels because of the constantly changing setting.

“I love navigating through the Thousands Islands,” shared Lower. “The great thing about them is you’ve got a different scene every time you turn around. That’s part of the magic because it’s constantly changing.”

Another perk about staying on a houseboat is that after being on the river all day, rather than having to go back to shore and hauling off to a hotel, you can just park yourself somewhere and get to enjoy an evening on the river. Then when you wake up, you’re greeted by the same beauty.

Lower loves waking up on the river because he says the mornings are gorgeous. He enjoys being on the river so much that he finds he doesn’t even mind when it’s raining.

“Obviously it’s nicer when it’s sunny,” said Lower, “but even in the rain it’s a beautiful spot.”

Castles Ahoy!

Something you won’t want to miss when you visit the Thousand Islands is Boldt Castle on Heart Island. You can dock your houseboat right there at the castle and there’s a U.S. Customs booth. George Boldt began building the castle for his wife Louise in 1900 and meant for it to be the ultimate romantic destination. Unfortunately his wife died unexpectedly, halting all construction.

The fabled, tragic love story has enchanted generations, drawing people to come visit the beautiful castle which is in the process of being restored. Another interesting fact about George Boldt is that he was the first person to introduce room service in hotels, and he coined the phrase: “The customer’s always right.”

Another castle you won’t want to miss is Singer Castle on Dark Island. It’s located at the east end of the Thousand Islands and the contents in the castle are all original. Construction for the castle originally began in 1905 and it was modeled after a castle in a novel called Woodstock. It’s entirely possible to dock there with a houseboat, but Lower mentioned a faster way to get there is to dock in Alexandria Bay and take a faster-running tour boat.

Simplifying Navigation

As an expert on navigating the Thousand Islands, Lower recommends downloading an app called Navionics because he feels it really pays off. The rivers all over the Thousands Islands have shoals, making it so every once in a while you get stuck in the middle of the river with only an inch of water.

Lower explained you could follow the charts or maps because it’s all marked on them, but that’s a thing called “dead reckoning.” On the other hand, Navionics shows you exactly where you are and the exact depth of water at that precise time.

“It’s totally useful,” attested Lower. “It’s not a free app, but if you’re going out there for vacation then it makes all the difference in the world.”

This opens up a lot of smaller places that you wouldn’t usually dare to go when relying on dead reckoning. For example, there could be a narrow passage between two islands that looks gorgeous, but you’d be nervous to try it since you wouldn’t know for sure what kind of water you’d be dealing with. However, with Navionics you can go into nooks and crannies confidently since the app shows you exactly how much wiggle room you have.

A Trip Like No Other

It’s safe to say that Houseboat Holidays provides a trip beyond comparison. It even throws in a Thousand Islands National Park park pass with your boat rental. This is a Canadian park that encompasses 26 islands and features all kinds of hiking trails and beautiful scenery. Even after all these years of renting a houseboat from Houseboat Holidays, Lower is still impressed with everything the area has to offer.

Lower loves Houseboat Holidays so much that he’s made several videos for them on their website including the “How to Navigate a Houseboat” and the “How to Dock a Houseboat” videos. He’ll be heading out there this September and making another video for them called “Houseboat Highlights in the Thousand Islands.” Lower has been in advertising his whole career so he knows what he’s doing when he puts the videos together. He enjoys doing it and calls it a labor of love.

All in all, Houseboat Holidays is a wonderful houseboat rental company that you won’t want to miss, and if you’re anything like Lower, you’ll find yourself going back time and time again.

“It’s a great family thing, it’s a great couples thing, and having done it by myself, it’s a great singles thing as well,” reiterated Lower. “It’s just really nice.”

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